Manly

by Cara McDonough


A few months ago the inevitable happened and J visited Pinterest and opened an account. Not to share recipes with his friends, he'd like me to point out, I'm sure (although I think what he'd like even more than that is for me not to write this post), but to discover cool ideas and projects, which, from my passing observations of Pinterest, seems like a great way to use the site. 

Like, Pinterest might show you how to turn the wine corks you've been storing in a container in a basement into miniature planters for succulents and other tiny plants. As J has a collection of wine corks he's been saving up for years in order to "do something with them someday" (NO COMMENT) this particular link was a useful find. 

J is much more into "projects" than I am, a term he - and now Nora - seem to use to define doing semi-crafty things with stuff you find around the house. My response to the proposition of commencing a "project" is to run for it, super fast, but Nora's gotten really into cutting pictures out of magazines and making collages, and I do like to watch her work, safe on the sidelines. She's dropped roughly 400 glue sticks from the table to the floor during her creative endeavors, resulting in them rolling under the dining room hutch where they dry up never to be used again, but I think it's worth it. 

And in terms of helpful life-hacks and easy and inventive home projects, J gets really motivated, too. And it's great to see him get motivated and to think about how his inherent creativity will enhance our lives, and how I will be involved in these endeavors in no way whatsoever. 

Which I'm not sure he totally gets. Because this morning, when I mentioned that I was feeling a little lackluster, J immediately responded with the confident suggestion, "You just need to find some inspiration on Pinterest."


Nashville!

by Cara McDonough


February was a frigid, interminable and, like, pretty awful month if you want to know the truth. I mean, yes, I love my family and my life in general, but I could have wiped February clean off the calendar this year with few regrets. 

One of the highlights, however, was our annual President's Day get together with what was once made up of college friends, and now has morphed into a group that's harder to define, except to say that we all have a lot of fun together. 

We went to Nashville this year, a city I've never visited and absolutely loved...the music, the heart-disease-inducing food (which included for me a hamburger topped with pimento cheese, jalapeño bacon and onion rings) and the people. The people! I miss you, southern people! We hired a babysitting service one night so the adults could go out, and the entire experience was so easy and pleasant compared to interactions I often have up north, where people are sometimes defensive and irritated from the get go, probably because it is so COLD, that I was nearly convinced to move there. That's what this winter has done to me. I think seriously about things like moving to Nashville because it's really easy to hire a babysitter there, compared to Connecticut, where it's been icy for four solid months. 

Anyway, that night the grown ups headed to Broadway, the city's most happening street, and hit up a honky tonk bar, where an absolutely amazing band was playing while the audience drank PBRs and swayed to the music. Everyone was having such a good time. 

It was one of those places where the experience you imagine yourself having prior to arriving ends up being exactly what it's like, one of those nights that imprints itself on your mind and reminds you what an incredibly diverse and interesting country this is. 

Amplifying that takeaway was the fact that we drove to Nashville, and go to see many more miles of the U.S.A. over the long weekend than we'd originally anticipated. We drove there from New Haven, because, after waiting way, way too long to book flights - a bad habit of ours - we realized that flying the family there would cost thousands of dollars and we said, "You know what? Let's turn this into a fun road trip!"

And it was a fun road trip, which included stopping to see friends and family and teaching our kids some of the central activities required to make long rides fun, like browsing the many brochures in rest stops and playing "I spy," which quickly turned into a variant of "I spy" that seemed to be called "I see something..." which is like the former, but with no guessing. You see something, you say it. 

Although we took plenty of extra days to turn this into an actual road trip, rather than just a frenzied car ride, it was still a lot of distance traveled in just a few days, something that was very clear to our astute Nora, who insisted at one point that she and Gabriel pretend they were airplanes, going very fast to various locations she'd announce over her pretend loudspeaker, like Florida and California. Then, after awhile, she informed me, with a serious look, "I think for our next trip, we should fly." 


Observations on a Connecticut Winter

by Cara McDonough


This morning I was watching the public works employees picking up trash on our street, and observed one of them take our garbage bin from the truck, then throw it - hard - over the snow heap that's collected on our curb over the past few weeks, onto the sidewalk, where it fell over and clattered to a stop on its side. 

And my first thought wasn't, "Dude, that sucks," or "Way to overreact!" Instead, I thought to myself, "Yeah. I get it." Because if I was out in the negative degree wind chill retrieving trash bins from their precarious positions perched on snowbanks by residents who just don't care about anything anymore - residents who have basically been staying inside in their flannel PJS since November, eating comfort food and watching television - then I, too, would probably be throwing stuff around. 

This has been the kind of winter, similar to last year's, where the joy normally provided by snowfall and snow days and everything else that comes with the season has been severely diminished by the severity and relentlessness of the weather. I used to like it when it snowed; it's something special, exciting. But last night, as I was driving back from the grocery store and a gusty mini-snowstorm blossomed out of nowhere, I literally said aloud in my car, "Oh, no way, what the hell is THIS?"

I know there are places where it's like this all the time and you can't really complain. But I find Connecticut isn't one of those locales where winter is wholeheartedly embraced, like it is in Minnesota, where they seem to have a lot of fun during colder months, snowshoeing and traveling from building to building in specially constructed tunnels and what have you. I know I'm not a northeast native, but it seems that up here, everybody is just a tiny bit unprepared for such harsh weather over such a long stretch. Every time I take one or both children outside to get them in the car, for instance, the procedure is as follows. 

1. Walk down front steps. Everyone nearly dies on some new ice that has materialized.

2. Hold hands on once-shoveled-but-now-treacherous path to driveway. Child - who is absentmindedly "skating" on slippery patch  - falls down. 

3. Pick up child and hold onto top of car for dear life while hurtling them into carseat. 

4. Shuffle to driver's side. Turn heater to highest level. Curse everything. 

If I had at some point gotten realistic about this weather, instead of continually assuming that warmer temps would be here in, oh, a week or two and none of this would be an issue anymore, maybe I would have tried harder to improve the ins and outs of my day to day existence in this climate. Instead I'm muddling through as though not embracing this lifestyle will hasten spring's arrival. No luck there yet. 

But when it does come, trust me, I'll be as crazy as the rest of these CT natives, wearing short sleeves on 50 degree days and sunbathing on the asphalt. The grass, too, once the snow is gone, which I'm estimating has gotta happen by June. July, at the latest. 


Midday

by Cara McDonough


Although I do have work to do, my schedule right now mostly involves being home. It's a change and a challenge for me. 

I don't like being a stay-at-home mom. It's hard to type that without adding the obligatory qualifiers most of us add to such a statement. Like, "But I'm glad I get to have this time with my children" (which is true). It's hard to say because it seems mean, and like I'm disparaging the job of staying home with kids (which is definitely a job) by saying I'd rather be working more hours out of the home, or full time. And then I worry that people who do work full time will tell me I'm crazy. That I'm lucky I get to be with my children. 

But I'm finally mature enough - sort of - to acknowledge my desires without fearing I'm making some sort of misogynistic or anti-mom statement. It's just the way I feel. I adore my children, but when I spend time away from my house, working on other endeavors, I enjoy my time with them more. I'm trying to admit things like that without feeling guilty, and meanwhile, to make the best use of my current schedule and situation, which is most likely temporary, so that it's fun for everybody involved.

Because being home with my children involves some things I truly love, and one of those things is having lunch with Gabriel when I bring him home from the preschool he attends three mornings a week.    

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We listen to "Fresh Air" on the local public radio affiliate and sit on the couch and eat together, even though I have tried to enact the "no eating on the couch" rule about a million times since SOMEBODY likes to crawl all over the furniture like a monkey when he eating, which not only gets incredibly messy, but is a choking hazard. Luckily Nora's at school when I'm admonishing him for such actions, because when she hears me warn of potential dangers, like choking, she basically has what is as close to a heart attack as a five-year-old can get. She likes everybody to follow the rules. 

When it's just me and my youngest, though, we break them a little. And it's one of my favorite parts of the day. 


At least I am good at putting on a scarf

by Cara McDonough


I readily admit that I'm not good at technical ventures, like using tools to organize my email inboxes or utilizing my MacBook to its full capabilities. I don't know how to turn on the editing function in Microsoft Word, so when I'm perusing a document, I'll just switch the text color to red and write my edits like that. I'm 36, and this is not going to change.

I don't know how many of you watch the show "Parks and Recreation," but I love it, and there's a scene in a fifth season episode where the character Tom Haverford chastises his officemate, Jerry, for the way he checks his email. It goes down like this:

Tom: Oh my God, Jerry? When you check your email, you go to AltaVista and type “please go to yahoo.com”?

Jerry: Well, how else would I do it?

Tom: You don’t have your email bookmarked? Do you have any bookmarks?

Jerry: What’s “bookmarks”?

Tom: God, Jerry! You don’t deserve the internet!

I identify with Jerry in this scene so much. For example, when I write on this blog, what I do is Google "Squarespace" (which I'm now using for hosting) and then I click on the link and log in from there. Instead of having the sign in page bookmarked on my toolbar. Because I don't know how to put a link up on the toolbar.

This morning, as I was performing the usual search-and-click ritual, I decided, enough already, I needed to learn how to put a link on the toolbar. To be totally honest, another event that prompted this decision occurred earlier when I was trying to log a different blog where I'm a contributor: what I do is search my Yahoo email inbox for this particular email from a particular guy who works at the news establishment that produces this blog. He once sent me instructions for logging in, and relocating that email, which is about half a year old, is how I do it.

I mean, come on, Cara.

Yahoo is apparently having problems this afternoon, so I couldn't log in, couldn't find the email, and couldn't write my post, which got me motivated. 

What I did, of course, was begin Googling "How to put a link on your Firefox toolbar." But before I got to the end of the sentence, I'd been provided these suggested phrases based on my initial words:

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Which made me feel better, because apparently A TON of people don't know how to put a tampon in or, ahem, a condom on, and a great many of poor souls think the internet is going to give them immediately effective advice on getting their baby to sleep. Also, a curse on someone?! 

And yeah, feel free to point out that this image also shows that I'd Googled "How to take a screenshot," so that I could use the above picture on this post. I'm hopeless. But also lucky that in this modern age a search engine can provide you the information necessary to do anything. You guys, anything.


Whole Foods: A few thoughts

by Cara McDonough


This morning, facing a day of no school or activities for my children, I decided that we would all go grocery shopping together, a task I needed to complete, but something I don't usually do with both kids. If I have to, I normally go to the grocery store nearest our house because there's a large Italian-American contingent that shops there (my people), and they seem to think it's adorable when Gabe screams things like, "Mommy, DO YOU SEE that balloon?!?" This, by the way, is a passive aggressive tactic of his when trying to attain something he wants, as well as a simple question ("Mommy, what's in that drawer? Oh. Is it chocolate? Oh, chocolate.")

This time though I decided we'd go to Whole Foods so that we could have our pick of a bunch of great produce. I was like, hey, this will be fun. The kids can help me pick some healthy snacks - which it's much easier to do when you're at that particular grocery store - and I would, well, get to shop at Whole Foods! Which I love to do, rarely buying more than just a few items, yet somehow always spending $50 or more. That's just what happens there and you sort of have to deal with it, while you enjoy your organic dark chocolate and satsumas. 

Today, though, I decided we'd spend some actual time there, and it went surprisingly well. I don't know if it was the fact that they were tired from a weekend of plentiful events, or just that they were too occupied being impressed by the setup and offerings in there, like I always am, but both kids were very well-behaved, and we succeeded in buying a few things we don't normally, which is what I'd wanted. Blood oranges, for instance. Brown pears, instead of green ones. 

As much of a joy as Whole Foods is to a food lover like me, however, I always come away feeling a little weird,  and I think it's more than the fact that I feel like I need to do penance after paying the bill. Maybe it's the fact that there are different gradients, in numbers, posted on animal items letting you know just how well this or that cow was treated, and although even the lowest rating indicates pretty good conditions, I always feel bad choosing that one, when I could choose a higher number. A more fairly treated cow. 

But I think what it really is, is that people don't seem to be having much fun when I go to Whole Foods. It could just be this particular location we visit, or perhaps I'm just so worried about spending over a million that I project my own anxiety onto others. I think, though, that the store might be a place for people who shop in a much more serious way than I do. Where shopping isn't a happy, even relaxing, way to spend a morning, like it is for me - imagining all the meals you'll make, or how good those blood oranges will taste - but a stress trigger, causing one to wonder where the hell the organic unsulphured unsweetened dried cherries are, because goddamnit, there's only unsulphured sweetened on the shelf. 

Or, same theme, but crazier, there was the woman this morning who'd tracked down a salesperson and brought her to the bulk aisle to lament the fact that there wasn't some particular type of nut available that she needed to buy for her macaw.

Yeah, I think it's that. Oh, and also that I came extremely close to buying goat milk, thinking it was half and half.  Thankfully, I re-checked the label. 


Before dark

by Cara in ,


One of the things I reticently admit to people - because it makes me seem kind of goth and weird - is that I actually like it when daylight saving time ends in the fall. I've probably said it here before; I like it when it gets dark at 5 p.m. When there's no guilt that we're not spending those hours outdoors, where, inevitably, my children would be trying to kill each other over the one, prized scooter we own, rather than nicely playing with one of the five hundred other little vehicles that are available. I mean, Gabriel INSISTS, nearly every time we go out, "I'm going to take my car," by which he means the Cozy Coupe. "It has eyes," he tells us, and then I envision him driving it down the interstate, which never gets old. But when I actually give him the option to go in his car - on the sidewalk, which is, I guess, less exciting than the prospect of driving it to the grocery store - forget it. He. Wants. THAT. SCOOTER. The one Nora is riding. And although he seems to have learned that yanking people off things that have wheels and are moving is not okay, that doesn't mean he doesn't do it sometimes.

That's not to say we don't have a great time being outside. We do. It's simply to say that, once the weather gets cold and we turn back the clocks, I don't exactly lament the leaving behind of the front doorstep refereeing, when I can be doing that same refereeing inside with no shoes on and a cup of tea.

The truth, though, is that my children are at ages - two and five-years-old - where there is far more playing than there is fighting. Even when there is fighting, Nora would much rather tell on her little brother than fight back, and that's alright with me for now.

Lately, what transpires on the days when I'm home with them are these lovely hours inside, perhaps getting dinner started and waiting for J to arrive, while the children (mostly) play well together, and the sky rapidly darkens, and I often have to check the time because if I'm not careful I'd have us all in bed by 6:15 or so, since the kids wouldn't know any better and I, secretly, would really love to go to bed at 6:15.

I've been trying to make peace with the fact that this isn't the kind of time where I can get anything significant done, like write a novel or redo the whole layout of the house or anything, because - as physically able as he is sometimes - Gabe loves to try dangerous things that don't always work out the way he wants, like try to scale the back of the sofa. I've got to keep an eye on him.

Beyond that, I've started thinking about the way Nora views me. It's not that I'd ever hide doing necessary tasks - like laundry or dishes - from her, to alter that image. But I'm also not sure I want her to see a woman who is afraid of being still; of taking a few moments for herself while her children are at those miraculous ages where they'd rather be with each other than anyone else in the world.

With these things in mind, when I do have a few down moments on these quiet evenings, I sit on the couch and I read. And I think about how incredibly different this time of life is. So very different than a couple of years ago when I'd dread those hours before J got home, alone with the a toddler and a baby and so, to tired (including this one evening where, just for like 30 seconds, I accidentally fell asleep, and everyone lived, don't worry).

I read, and then, inevitably, Gabe comes by with something from the dress-up bin and suggests I "be a mouse" or "be a bear," and I tell him no thanks, and he repeats - always willing to go the distance for what he wants - "MOMMY I WANT YOU TO BE A BEAR!" So I'm a bear for a few moments, before he realizes I'm really weak at being a bear, and returns to his sister. They keep playing, and I keep reading and I rejoice because it is only 4:30, and we are in for the night.


BU memories, Dyson 4-ever

by Cara in


A few weekends ago I took a trip to Boston to meet up with two of my college friends for a little walk down nostalgia lane. We'd questioned bringing husbands and kids along for the trip, and then vetoed that idea, deciding what we really wanted was a girls weekend, and I am really glad we did because guess what we were up to Saturday morning? Walking around the Boston University campus visiting all the dorms and apartments we inhabited during those eventful four years, and then taking pictures of ourselves out front. I'm pretty sure the boys would have put a stop to this activity, oh, before it even began, suggesting instead that we drink beers and watch baseball or something (please note that we girls also did that.) On Friday night, awaiting the third member of our party who'd be arriving at the airport shortly, my friend Ro and I went to the BU Pub, an establishment we'd frequented our senior year, open only to students, alumni and their guests. We sat at a wooden table, just like we did years ago, and drank beer, just like we did years ago.

A little different this time around, however, were the subjects of conversation. We - in tipsy, jovial tones - talked about the health benefits of almond milk, discussed our favorite breakfast options and waxed poetic on the value of a good vacuum cleaner before we stopped to point out that we were now unmistakable 30-somethings, so jarringly different than the 20-something selves that once gathered in this same space.

There was no sadness in this observation. It was, instead, illuminating. And little did I know that the discussion would have lasting implications. Just few days later my friend emailed me with that day's deal on the Woot! website: a refurbished Dyson vacuum cleaner at an incredibly reasonable price. A Dyson! Which we'd talked about enthusiastically over those beers, as I expressed the most boring of my eternal desires: to own one.

I made the purchase in a heartbeat and our new vacuum cleaner arrived a week later. I put the box upstairs, waiting for a quiet moment to unwrap the contents and marvel at this new, lightweight wonder, which would replace our clunky Eurkea.

I never got the chance, though. Because J got to it first, put it together, and was vacuuming within minutes. He's since installed its wall hanger in the basement stairway, where our new Dyson now resides when he is not using it to master the too-frequently occurring dust-bunnies that haunt each and every corner of our house, thanks to our always-shedding dogs.

He's used it to vacuum every day since, remarking cheerfully that he "just wants to keep on top of things," while our children run in horror from the loud sound, unleashed at the most unexpected moments. I, meanwhile, look on happily, realizing that one result of my mini-college reunion - finally buying a Dyson - meant I not only got the item I'd always wanted, but somehow unleashed a passionate house cleaner. I suppose, idealist that he is, he was simply waiting for the right tools of the trade.


A local October

by Cara in ,


I'm reading this book called "Culinary Intelligence" by food writer Peter Kaminsky right now, which is a) an excellent book on eating well, locally and beneficially for your health and b) not "Ulysses." I give up. So, I'm obsessing over the book, even excitedly explaining ideas and sections to J (which is not that much better than when people try and explain the plots of movies or television shows to someone who hasn't seem them) as I go.

There's nothing that novel in this book, really - eat produce that's in season, eat meat that's been raised responsibly, avoid white flour, etc. - but the fact that Kaminsky is both a wonderful food writer and someone who thoroughly enjoys food (for real) has got me hooked. He remarks, for instance, that he could never imagine giving up wine, as it's such an integral part of a meal, and I was like, "Ok, here's an eating plan I can get on board with."

Reading this book coincided with me having a realization - the kind of realization that occurs a few years after every single person you know has told you exactly this same thing - that I'm never going to get anywhere being angsty about work I should be doing, or worrying about things I should write about.

Instead, I should do lots of things I like, and write about them. And that way, even when the "work" part doesn't pan out, at least I've had fun.

So I thought about how I was enjoying this book so much, and how I get very enthusiastic about the whole sustainable food discussion in general. Also, how I love grocery shopping - no, really - and cooking, although I could be better at it.

Then I thought, well, what if I went as local as possible for one month? October, because, just practically speaking, October was coming up, and because there is still local produce available, although it's a bit more challenging than the summer, and I like challenges. Sometimes I do, anyway.

I thought it might be fun to explore "local" in a bigger sense than just the stuff that's being harvested at nearby farms. There are local dairy and meat farms, too, here in Connecticut, and local beekeepers and much more.

But there are also local, specialty markets I don't often visit, simply because - especially with two young children - it's harder than heading over to the nearby Stop & Shop. There's an amazing cheese store. There's a local, non-chain donut shop. There's a fantastic purveyor of Italian imports.

These places aren't local in the sense that what they offer is grown in Connecticut soil - or even created here in the state - but they're local businesses offering a higher quality alternative to what I normally buy.

I'm interested in cost, of course, wondering if what I'll spend weekly buying more local foods than usual will be more expensive. I am, by the way, under no pretense that I'm going to go entirely local. I'm still going to buy bananas and grains and other decidedly non-local items. As local as possible is my goal. And with that in mind, my guess on the cost being higher is maybe, but I'll be comparing the numbers to find out for sure. There are considerations beyond the price of the food itself, though; when I go to the grocery store, I sometimes over-buy, and we end up throwing things away from time to time. If I'm more careful in my spending, and we eat everything I purchase, the cost could balance out.

I'm also hoping that this endeavor will improve the rut we've hit recently in our at-home cooking. It seems, lately, that we're always stuck on deciding what to make for dinner. I understand this isn't one of the world's most pressing issues, but it stresses me out nonetheless.

Plus, will cooking more, with different ingredients and recipes, get my picky child to eat more...to eat better? This is Nora, I'm talking about, guys. Gabriel is eating his weight in whatever food I put in front of him these days. So, his teenage years should be awesome.

Taking all these considerations into account, I'm doing it. I'm going as local as possible for one month, which is, I imagine in these hyper-aware-and-socially-networked-times, something plenty of others have done.

But my specific goal will be charting how it affects the micro world of this particular four-person family. Well, plus the dogs, who don't really count. And, I guess, plus Mr. Small Toad, who lives in an aquarium in our basement and eats bugs that J collects from the back yard. You seriously can't get any more local than that.


Goals, 2013-14

by Cara in


As you may have noticed, I neglected to post, and therefore complete, any summer goals this year. I could say I don't know what happened, but I do know what happened. I was busier than normal with work this summer, and busy with trips, and then Vinnie's wedding and associated happenings took up some extra time. All great stuff, but it meant I didn't spend any time doing much of anything "extra," including writing on this blog and making summer goals, which has always been really fun for me; what's more, those goal lists have actually gotten me to do some things I wouldn't do otherwise. Sometimes those were big things, like running a 20K race, and sometimes they were little, like building a sandcastle. Sometimes the goals don't work out, like when I wanted to "get into tea," which is simply not ever going to happen.

Anyway, I decided that I wanted to make a list of goals anyway, to be completed during this academic year. As I mentioned in a previous post, it's how we organize our life now that our kids are in school, but it's kind of how I've always organized my life. The fall (my favorite season) = the start of something new.

This is also a good time to make a list of things I'd like to do around New Haven since our future here is up in the air. Not that we don't absolutely love our life here - which we do - but J's post-doc is winding down and it's time for him to look at permanent positions. This is something I always knew would happen; I understood when we moved here that we wouldn't live here forever. But spending time with family here, having children and making new friends has rooted me to this place in ways I didn't anticipate. It's difficult not knowing what will come next, so I'm trying not to think about it too much until there's some definite news, and in the meantime I'd like to make the most of our time in Connecticut.

There's more, though. This is a good time to make a list like this because, if I'm being totally honest, my life has felt a little crazy for the past year or so.

Not crazy in a good way. Believe me, a good crazy exists, and J and I have a ton of it in our lives. And I'm lucky, because as far as my family is concerned, when it's crazy it's usually the good kind and when it's not good we are pretty successful at fixing it. When we noticed our weekday mornings were always a rushed and unhappy time for us (crazy in a bad way) we decided to take some steps to fix them and did pretty well. Not this morning, mind you, it being only the second week of school and me being possibly still hungover from the wedding two days ago, if that is humanly possible, but most mornings are much better.

I guess what I'm saying is I don't feel any self-help-book-type need to "work on my relationships" family or otherwise, or anything like that. But I would very much like to work on my own daily routines, my career and other goals and just...myself in general. I really do want to read more, even though episodic television is so incredibly tempting. I don't want to use coffee and a crutch and, correspondingly, I'd like to go to bed early most of the time because that is something my body truly appreciates.

I'd like to plan, and spend, my time a little more wisely. That's a big theme for me here, and writing down the things I'd like to do makes it a lot more likely that I'll do them.

When I write these goals, I purposely make some of them very specific and easy, some are more vague and some are bigger things that require little steps that I don't include at the outset, just to save space. But the initial act of writing down the big idea helps me think about how to make it happen. Last summer I printed out a half-marathon training program and used that to get in good enough shape to run that 20K race. Writing down the goal itself was the first step.

This year, I'm including "write blog posts more regularly. I realize that the mere act of adding it to the list won't make me do it. I need a plan. But putting it out there publicly helps me take it more seriously than just thinking about it all the time. "Become a better traveler" is another one this year. I don't know how that will occur. By buying new luggage? Getting a prescription for Valium?

I mean, we'll have to wait and see right? That, in fact, is a big part of the fun.

1. run another half marathon 2. write blog posts more regularly 3. see a play at the Yale Rep 4. host a wine tasting night 5. spend some time in Beinecke Library 6. make (edible) cupcakes for Nora's fifth birthday 7. visit the Connecticut Science Center in Hartford 8. see "Pippin" on broadway 9. become a better traveler 10. visit New Orleans 11. start learning Spanish 12. research taking a trip somewhere warm in the winter; maybe actually make it happen 13. make a photo album (recycled from a previous list) 14. go to a fall festival 15. go camping 16. make dedicated and continual efforts at exploring new work possibilities 17. visit the Mark Twain House 18. plan an amazing day in Brooklyn 19. fix up the home office, redux 20. go shopping, all by myself, for as long as I want 21. go to the movies, order popcorn and Junior Mints 22. get a new computer 23. spend a fall or winter weekend in Maine 24. go on an unplanned day trip


Awaiting a wedding

by Cara in


My brother Vinnie got married this weekend to Audrey, one of my favorite people in the world. Needless to say, it was an incredible event in all levels. I still feel a little like a truck hit me this morning, two days out. It was worth it though. Here are a few photos taken by Nora, who learned how to take pictures with my iPhone this weekend, and put her new skills to use while we were getting ready the day of.

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At summer's end

by Cara in


I know I haven't written in awhile, so I thought that instead of trying to play catch-up with you, my lovely six or seven readers, I would instead start right here, today, in our house. Where, just an hour ago, I realized that this was the last day I'd spend with both of my kids at home before they went off to school for the year. Nora, to kindergarten (KINDERGARTEN!!!!) and Gabe to a three-times-a-week preschool program for two-year-olds, which he is very excited about for the time being, and which he calls, "Gabey's school." He may become less excited when he realizes J and I won't be attending with him. Time will tell.

But back to the point, I was putting Gabe down for his afternoon nap, thinking about this, and got a little teary-eyed realizing the inevitable for all parents of young kids: that they are growing up, and will continue to do so. That they will start doing things like homework and sharing private jokes with friends that we don't get at all. What's more, they don't care if we get it.

That my little boy, who still proclaims loudly - and often - that he, "LOVES diapers," may indeed remain a baby for awhile longer, but certainly not forever. Because you know what else he loves? Women.

And that, despite craving a bit more freedom after spending most of this summer with my children, that freedom is - suddenly and oh so surprisingly - right around the corner.

The end of summer is, as I find so often, a bit of a strange and bittersweet time. This year is especially so as we are anticipating potential newness; J, ending his postdoc, has begun the permanent job search. Which means we are not sure what - or where - lies ahead.

The salve, of course, is that all the potential newness is exciting, too. I've always liked fall, both for its weather its sense of new beginnings, never able to escape the feel of the school calendar even when I was no longer attending. Technically the season is still a few weeks away, but symbolically, this is where it starts.

Now, of course, we're in it all the way with our two tiny and eager students, and I can't get enough of their enthusiasm. Or, in the younger one's case, a sense of good-natured obliviousness about it all; he's only two, after all. Still a baby, really. For now, anyway.

gabe andnora


Ok

by Cara in


1. 8:43 p.m., Monday. Everyone in this house, including my husband, is asleep, except me. Do I a) also sleep b) plow through some more of Dan Brown's "Inferno," thus learning more than a person could ever possibly wish to learn about Florentine history c) watch 5-7 episodes of "The West Wing"? 2. Summer goals time!

3. Today my two-year-old son counted to "eleventeen." So. Genius.

4. I'm leaning towards "also sleep."

5. I have a LOT of thoughts about being 35-years-old, and if you are lucky enough, I will whine incessantly share them with you.


Vacation, the aftermath

by Cara in


Back in 2010, you'll recall, I wrote about an amazing family vacation in Emerald Isle, NC, where we saw dolphins and had cocktails and went swimming and ate Pop-Tarts. Big emphasis on the Pop-Tarts. Well, just last week we did it again. Same house. An even bigger crew (meaning even more socializing, and hands on deck to help out with the kids) and more Pop-Tarts.

GabeBeach

The trip was, once again, amazing, and perhaps even more than it was the first time around, badly needed. While I'm still spending a fair deal of time at home these days, I'm also doing a fair deal of freelance writing. So I've been busy from sun-up (or, to be more exact, first-child-up) to sundown (which is, let's be honest, when I put on my pajama pants and call it a day) and I was truly ready for a break.

Because of that, I was lamenting the trip's end before it even began. So when it did end, I had a bit of a comedic breakdown. Every song seemed meaningful. Every piece of bacon seemed like my last. It was time to get organized again (or, maybe organized for the first time is more like it). It was time to stop eating everything in sight. It was time to return to what sometimes feels like a taxing work schedule. Hey, I'll take working over not working, but after a few months of regular output, professional stress has become less of a novel and welcome feeling to me. Now it just manifests as plain old, regular stress.

That's ok, though, because I've always felt that stressful situations are good impetus to change your life for the better. Maybe you need a new daily schedule! Or to clean out your desk! Maybe you need a new fitness regime! I love the promise of those ideas.

And that's usually how I've dealt with the end of great vacations. I've switched it up a bit, or planned something exciting. I think that's part of a vacation does: it energizes you for something new.

The difference at this stage of me and J's life is that we're on the brink of a LOT of new things, at least potentially. As he finishes up his post-doc, we will be thinking about what's next. Including new jobs and a whole new place to live, maybe. It's both scary and exciting, but most of all - for me at least - it's unsettling. I'm constantly on guard regarding my emotions; if I'm feeling in love with New Haven, I'm careful not to love it too much. When I talk to people about places they've lived, I'm overwhelmed with the details - the places, colors, pros and cons - in their stories.

So what I'm trying to do is convince myself that not knowing what's next is good. That we're on the brink of a million exciting things, whether that means new things here, or new things somewhere else. Our vacation was a chance to stop worrying about the routine parts of our life, and also to stop worrying about these bigger issues.

Now that we're back, it's game on. It feels better to admit that there's a lot to think about rather than utter my normal refrain, "Well, we'll see what happens." So, people: there's a lot to think about. Thanks to the beach, and our family and eating shameful amounts of refined sugar without guilt, I am rested and ready to plan.